Saturday, 6 November 2010


After lunch yesterday I visited Fieldhead Carr Primary School...

It was great to visit this amazing little school again and to see the work Nik Edensor, the headteacher, and his team are doing with the Children's University. Nik and his team's commitment to this initiative is amazing to see and the school is using the Children's University to enrich their curriculum offer and the impact is fantastic.

I was there to attend their assembly where the team were letting the children know the workshops that would be available next semester within their Friday afternoon Children's University programme. Each member of staff leading a workshop did the big sell to encourage children to opt for their workshop and it was obvious that each colleague was passionate about the area they were leading and was keen to share that passion, enthusiasm and love of learning with the children. The workshops ranged from drama, choir and animation workshops to dance, exercise and cookery clubs.

I was also there to present one of the children with her learning passport. This was a special passport because it was the 50000th to be issued across  the country.


Yesterday, I started the day early at Queensway Primary School...

My colleague Gail Palmer-Smeaton, headteacher at this great little school, had asked me to come in and talk to the children in their aspirational assembly. The building looks fantastic with its new entrance and the new Children's Centre and Gail and the team are releasing a very special kind of magic. I talked to the children about the keys to success; self-belief, practice and hard work and I also got the chance to walk around the school to see things in action. The learning environment, the relationships and the sense of purpose around the school was wonderful with everyone working hard to ensure that everyone is happy, healthy, safe and increasingly successful... the children, the learning team and the parents and carers. We all need to develop this 'can do' culture to release the incredible potential and the magic in our children and our colleagues! 

It was great to visit the school again. This is a wonderful little school with a great team led by an inspirational headteacher who together have built something really special.

Thursday, 4 November 2010


I visited Rufford Park Primary School this afternoon...

It was great to visit this little PFI school again, which after five years is still looking great. It was good to be able to walk around the school with Alison Anslow, the headteacher, and to meet some of her colleagues and some of her wonderful children. The most impressive bit was the early years outdoor play where the children equipped in their school waterproofs were having a great time in the pouring rain.

Alison and her team have achieved something really special at Rufford Park.


Alexis Jordan helped launch Education Leeds’ ‘Give It 100%’ attendance competition by performing in a school assembly at Royd's School Specialist Language College earlier this week...

Alexis, the former semi finalist on America's Got Talent was in the city courtesy of Radio Aire. She is widely tipped to reach the number one single spot in the charts this weekend with her new single 'Happiness',  and had stopped in at the school to remind the young people of the importance of regular attendance.

Education Leeds’ annual ‘Give It 100%’ competition is one of a number of initiatives taking place across the city to remind children and families that every school day matters. Children and young people in Leeds who manage 100 per cent attendance at school throughout November will be in with a chance to win some brilliant prizes which include: Nintendo DSs, iPods, indoor karting, family meals at Nando’s and Chiquito, signed guitars, school discos, sno!zone, Leeds rugby and football tickets, Hollywood Bowl tickets, Laser Tag and Ice Cube tickets. Over 300 prizes are up for grabs, many provided with the help of Radio Aire and local businesses.

It was great for the young people to meet and watch Alexis Jordan perform at their school. The message from her, Education Leeds and every school in Leeds is clear – attendance is vital in order for our young people to achieve their full potential and school is the best possible place for a child to be during the day. Every school day matters and we want all our children and young people to spend as much time as possible in our brilliant learning environments. We are working hard to improve attendance in all our schools so our children and young people can be happy, healthy, safe and successful.


I started the day early at St Patrick's Catholic Primary School where Susan Kneeshaw, the headteacher, and her colleagues are releasing a very special magic...

It was great to visit this little oasis of wonderful primary practice on Torre Road in Burmantofts. Susan's passion, enthusiasm, commitment and energy shone through the visit and it was great to walk around the school and hear about some of the innovative and creative work the team are doing with an increasingly rich and diverse population. The children were wonderful; polite, articulate, positive and open, and were a fantastic advert for this brilliant learning place in the heart of Leeds.


We are organising 'The Party at the End of the Universe', the last Education Leeds Christmas party, on Wednesday 8 December... 

I hope that this party, which is sponsored by Capita, will be an opportunity for us all to get together for one last time to celebrate what we have achieved here in Leeds and for me to say thank you to some extraordinary colleagues who I will really miss. The party will start at 7.30pm and finish at midnight, and is being held at The Loft - a stunning venue in Leeds City Centre: Tickets are just £2 and all money from ticket sales will go to charity. Colleagues are working on the arrangements and will give more details about how to buy tickets very soon, but in the meantime make sure you save the date!

Wednesday, 3 November 2010

I attended the monthly Education Leeds Board meeting this morning...

It will be my last meeting next month and this meeting focused on how we were managing to keep doing 'business as usual'. The Board were very positive and supportive of our combined efforts to stay focused on the day job while we work with Nigel Richardson, our new Director of Children's Services, to establish the new world order from April 2011. Nigel attended the meeting to update the Board on the transformational programme and to share his early thoughts on what has already been achieved. The meeting also provided the Board with an update on our performance and budget monitoring  and the human resources planning we are doing to prepare for the new children's services arrangements.

The Board complimented the team on the way we are managing the business through these very challenging transitional times and on what we have achieved in terms of outcomes for our children and young people.

Tuesday, 2 November 2010


Through their 'Youth in Focus' programme, the Big Lottery Fund are making up to £30 million available for big projects in England that support vulnerable young people through difficult changes in their lives...

There are certain groups of young people who need more support at important stages in their lives. Youth in Focus aims to help some of these young people through a targeted programme  for specific groups of young people.  The minimum grant is £500,000 and the groups the Big Lottery Fund are targeting are:

  • Young carers - Helping young people between the ages of 10 and 25 to be heard and get better access to practical advice and services, which can support their day to day lives.
  • Young people leaving care - Supporting young people between the ages of 15 and 25, so they get better access to education, housing, healthcare and employment advice and services.
  • Young people leaving youth offenders’ institutions - Helping young people between the ages of 15 and 25 to develop their life skills and get better access to services, particularly young men with learning difficulties and young women.
If you want to find out more or apply please visit the Big Lottery Fund website at


I visited Blenheim Primary School this afternoon to see my colleague Mo Duffy...

It's over two years since I visited this little school where Mo and her team are clearly releasing the magic. The school has made real progress in terms of outcomes since my last visit with some significant improvements to their buildings through a new modular unit which will help the school grow to become a thriving and successful two form entry primary school to meet local need. As always I was impressed by Mo's focus and passion and the quality of the learning environment the team are developing for their children and their families is fantastic!

Monday, 1 November 2010


My colleague Dirk Gilleard and I visited Brodetsky Primary School this afternoon...

We had been invited by Jeremy Dunford, who has been headteacher since January, to talk about his ambitious plans for the school. I haven't visited the school for three years and it was really refreshing to talk to Jeremy about what he and his governors are trying to achieve in terms of a centre of learning excellence in this community. I remember walking around the school with Simon Canby, the previous headteacher, who put in place a lot of the foundations that Jeremy is now building on. Like Simon, Jeremy's energy and commitment is contagious and importantly they could both see the enormous potential at Brodetsky Primary School where there is the opportunity to work with a talented team and some great young people on a really fantastic site.


I have had a fantastic last couple of weeks with so many ordinary people doing extraordinary things...

I attended the launch of the Leeds Children's University, having been invited to become the university's first chancellor. This is a fantastic initiative which will connect with and build on the brilliant work we have done with study support, playing for success and the Breeze initiative here in Leeds. I attended the 'Celebration of Inspirational Developments in Early Years Practice in Leeds' where colleagues, who in April this year took part in a Reggio Emilia study week in Italy funded by the British Council, shared the impact it has had on their practice. David Dickinson and I had breakfast at Roundhay School with a group of headteacher colleagues from the Meanwood and Moortown family of schools and the North East Leeds schools learning partnership. I attended the Stephen Lawrence Education Standard award ceremony 2010, which provided an opportunity to celebrate ten years of activities promoting race equality and community cohesion with the Stephen Lawrence Education Standard Partnership working with Education Leeds to change the landscape and build trust, respect, tolerance and understanding. I visited Quarry Mount Primary School during their open afternoon for parents and carers as part of their focus week on Black artists for Black History Month. I attended the official opening of the wonderful new buildings at the West SILC by the Lord Mayor, Councillor Jim McKenna and the Lady Mayoress, Councillor Andrea McKenna. The new modular build facilities are fantastic, and really extend and enhance the facilities available on the Milestone site. I went to the Year 11 reunion and presentation evening at Cardinal Heenan Catholic High School to present the certificates and awards to some fantastic young people who had achieved the school's best ever GCSE results. I attended Beecroft Primary School's harvest assembly and music awards. The school gives every child the opportunity to play a musical instrument and the school enters the children for awards through the Royal School of Music. The whole school and orchestra delivered a great harvest assembly which included some of my favourite songs. We also held a special evening for some of our extraordinary colleagues at the banqueting suite at the Civic Hall. It was a wonderful evening attended by around 150 colleagues, most of whom had been nominated for one of our Spirit Awards. The evening had been organised by Stephanie Rayford and Danielle Brearley, who had done a brilliant job to create such a successful and memorable evening for everyone.

Over half term I visited Manchester, to attend a couple of concerts at the Bridgewater Hall, and Oxford, a lovely city which grows on me each time I visit. I also opened the Primary Schools Art Exhibition at Middleton Railway. This was a wonderful project involving Middleton Primary School, Middleton St Mary's Church of England Primary School, Middleton St Phillip's Catholic Primary School and Westwood Primary School supported by colleagues from Cockburn Arts College. It was great to see the children's work on display and to visit this little bit of railway history. I also started reading a lot of great books over half-term. I read the new Terry Prachett novel 'I Shall Wear Midnight' and re-read 'A Hat Full of Sky'. I am also reading 'Talent is Overrated' by Geoff Colvin, 'The Flipside' by Adam Jackson and 'The Snowman' by Jo Nesbo which was recommended by a friend!

This wonderful couple of weeks and everything I have been reading recently has once again reminded me that the potential to be exceptional exists within everyone, and there are no exceptions. Being exceptional is not defined by what you have or what you do, rather it depends critically on your attitude and the decisions you make. The Spirit Awards showed us that extraordinary achievers are ordinary people who make extraordinary decisions about the events in their lives. It would be easy to justify reasons for other peoples success – such as lucky breaks, better education, wealthy parents, etc. Yet the truth of the matter is attitude makes the difference between extraordinary achievements and mediocre results. All exceptional achievers make clear deliberate decisions about themselves, their future and their role in the world. Our decisions drive our destinies and shape our futures. While you can’t change your past and the challenges in your present may “seem” insurmountable, almost every aspect about your future is yet to be decided.

I know that this half-term is going to fly by and these are challenging and difficult times for us all but the choice is yours. You can choose a path of struggle, hard work and mediocrity or you can choose to rewrite your future and become exceptional.

Let me know if I can help!

Sunday, 31 October 2010


My colleague Claire Dodd, Child Protection Training and Support Officer based at the Blenheim Centre sent me this e-mail at the end of last week...

"Hello Chris, Angela, myself and all the other colleagues who week after week had to force themselves to another apple centred delight, would like to say a huge thank you to all the colleagues who bought goodies from us on Wednesday 20th Oct in order to raise funds for the Pakistan Flood appeal. In total, including the money raised from the very start of the bake-off we raised a wonderful £133 which is not bad for just eating cakes. I have included a few photos for your amusement. Cheers, Claire."

I was sorry not to be able to be there and enjoy the baking but it is as alway wonderful to see what colleagues are doing to support those in need in Pakistan and at the same time to have fun!